Venice, Murano, & Burano
Venice is the most beautiful city I have even been, period. There are no cars. There is less noise. The food is incredible. If I spoke a lick of Italian then I would be living there as we speak.
Venice is a maze of sidewalks and piazzas. Even a map won’t help most times since GPS isn’t quite precise enough on the island. Pick landmarks and work your way around. I would highly recommend taking as many wrong turns as you possible and getting lost on the most beautiful little streets you can.
Find a small place to eat, not a populated area. I still remember my first taste of speck (an Italian meat that is adjacent to prosciutto). It was at a tiny little place where no one spoke English. Our lovely server came over and broken Italian/English-ed her way through the menu. It was an outstanding experience and the best food.
There are however a few “American” places too. I really needed a taste of home one day while I was there. While the employees didn’t speak any English and all of the food was Italian food, this place had a TV playing sports (very rare), and AC/DC’s greatest hits on in the background. It was as close to home as it was going to get in Venice, but it did the job. Unfortunately, I was alone and lost when I happened upon this place and I couldn’t find my way back and I don’t know what it was called. If I had to guess, it was somewhere near here.
Murano & Burano
The two best little islands off of Venice are the glass blowing capitol of the world, Murano, and a small little residential island called Burano.
Murano is almost exclusively glass blowing factories, some of them you are allowed to walk right in to. Plenty of them have tours, demos, or people working in their shop where they sell their work. If you have time, watching someone shape a little figure out of a ball of hot glass is kind of amazing. There are tons of artists working around and plenty of small galleries to explore for free or a very small fee.
There are also a lot of mask shops. Venice is famous for its carnival festival that they hold annually and the traditional masks are great. There are usually stores all over the place selling all kinds of local handmade masks.
Burano is another great place to spend a relaxing day. You can make your way around the entire island in under a few hours and the houses on the island are the main feature. Every house is brightly painted and the streets are made up of canals and parks. It is a definite must if you are into relaxing walks around beautiful places. Be sure not to miss the last ferry back to Venice though, because after that you are out of luck!